The E-Consultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Industry Census 2008, published March 2008, investigated over 600 email marketers’ approach to data. 

After all, accurate data powers relevant targeting, which is proven to deliver the best results. 

The findings showed that regular data cleaning has taken a back seat for many email marketers.

Just over half of emarketers in the UK (57%) said they cleansed their databases regularly. 

But the other 43% may be causing themselves some problems:

  • Pushing relevant messages to people based on incorrect criteria can damage your brand and reduce campaign effectiveness. Targeting contacts with relevant messages from an accurate database is fundamental. Without clean, complete and accurate data, messages can never be relevant and targeted despite your best intentions.
  • Trying to send to bounced records repeatedly will lead to deliverability issues with many of the major webmail ISPs.
  • Emailing contacts who have unsubscribed is both against EU regulations and will lead to complaints. Complaints to ISPs using the mark as spam button or to blacklisting organisations will affect your deliverability. 

The findings support this. Deliverability is a major problem with more than half of respondees having trouble getting into recipients’ inboxes. 

Campaign performance is compromised as over two thirds of companies believe that they are not using email as effectively as they could.

The key reasons behind this are cited as lack of budget and poor quality of data.

Data cleaning can be a fairly straightforward exercise to implement. Your email partner should be able to automate a number of these activities for you:

  • Suppress all hard bounces and unsubscribes. This should happen as   standard in your email sending tool.
  • At the point of data capture use validation to ensure data is entered accurately and if you use a double opt-in strategy you can ensure that both the email addresses are valid and clearly present to the subscriber what information they have entered. On our website is more information on data collection and also how data collection techniques impacts your deliverability. Optimising this part of your email marketing programme can have significant benefits. 
  • Refresh your data sets by using ‘update my details’ and cleaning campaigns. There is a case study on our web site for Informa showing this in action as part of a readership survey. The campaign achieved a 6.5% completion rate, and is typical of a creative use of our data services.  
  • Accept that data collected over 3 years ago may not be worth using any more. 

Investments in data cleaning can be self financing through the improved campaign effectiveness. There is also a potential cost saving as more accurate data allows more targeted campaigns which will reduce your sending volumes. 

Data cleaning is often overlooked, but should not be ignored. Good data is essential to email marketing and should be a priority for all email marketers.

Henry Hyder-Smith is the Managing Director of Adestra.